Inside the Sixers: Another poor effort by Sixers

Posted: April 05, 2012

Following an inexplicably bad home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, 76ers coach Doug Collins gave the 76ers off Thursday.

That means that they are really getting two days of rest, because no one wearing a red, white, and blue jersey with Sixers emblazoned across his chest showed up for work Wednesday. And now the question that has to be asked is whether the Sixers have actually quit already.

The Sixers scored just seven points in the fourth quarter of their latest embarrassing performance, a 99-78 muzzling by the mighty Toronto Raptors (20-35). Not against San Antonio. Not against Boston. No, the Sixers put up the fewest points they have ever scored in the fourth quarter of a basketball game since the advent of the 24-second clock back in 1954-55 against a habitual lottery team.

If this is the best they can muster against a team like Toronto, it really doesn't matter how much easier their schedule is than Boston's, New York's, or any other team jockeying for playoff position. Because they have not looked like a playoff team for the better part of seven weeks.

After their competent but inevitable loss to the Miami Heat one night earlier - they can't use that loss as an excuse for what happened at home Wednesday - Collins said that falling to the Heat, 99-93, was not a moral victory.

No argument here. In fact, what it now looks like more than anything was a Heat team - one that had beaten the Sixers by an average of 21 points in their three previous meetings this season - needing a big but reasonable effort out of LeBron James in order to avoid a setback against a team that is getting progressively worse at the most inopportune time of the season.

This could be excused if it were an anomaly, an egg laid by a former division leader that in recent weeks had the look of a competent team that was headed in the right direction.

This, however, is not the case.

The offense continues to trend downward seemingly night after night. The Sixers have failed to score above 80 points in five of their last 11 games. They have scored less than 80 points 11 times this season after doing so just three times all of last season.

The performance was their second exceedingly inept showing in less than a week against an awful team. Before an embarrassing loss to Washington on Friday, the Sixers had two days of rest. Yet they lost to a team that fired its coach months ago and will probably say goodbye to its interim coach as soon as this season is over.

But the Sixers' lethargy that night in Washington was transformative for the Wizards. Winners of just 11 games to that point, Washington and its band of misfit players punished the Sixers, administering a 97-76 beating that had Collins wondering aloud for the first time about which team would show up for the Sixers' next game.

The Sixers have been talking about winning the Atlantic Division for the first time since they did so in 2001, but that is a conversation that is better off dismissed. They remained just 1½ games out of first place in the division after Boston fell to San Antonio, but they are the seventh seed in the race for the Eastern Conference playoffs, and the two teams below them, New York and Milwaukee, both could finish with better records.

So they will get Thursday off, regroup, and then try to rectify what has become a pretty bad situation. But if they are going to show up and play the same brand of unsightly basketball they have been playing lately, it won't matter.

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